Gil Hill, a long-time public servant and part-time actor who appeared in all three of Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop movies, has died. Hill was 84.
Born in Alabama, Hill transferred to the Detroit Police Department in 1959, eventually making a name for himself in the department’s homicide division. In 1984, Hill—already nationally recognized for his work on cases like the serial killings of Atlanta’s Wayne Williams—caught the eye of director Martin Brest while Brest was scouting locations for the upcoming film, and quickly secured the role of Axel Foley’s fiery superior officer, the foul-mouthed Inspector Todd.
As with so many aspects of Brest and Murphy’s massively successful blockbuster, Hill’s iconic performance was deeply influential for the spate of cop films that followed, which quickly filled their ranks with superior officers who alternated between demanding maverick cops’ guns and badges and begrudgingly applauding their success. But few of these copycat cops had the authenticity Hill brought to the proceedings, tapping into 25 years on the force, and rewriting dialogue with Brest in order to make it more realistic.
Brest, for his own part, was effusive in praise for the amateur actor, telling People in 1985 that, “Not only was he able to put out a lot of hot-tempered emotion but, in a subtle way, convey an underlying love, the kind a father would have for a son. That’s difficult for a professional actor, and the fact that Gil was doing it just blew my mind.”
After Beverly Hills Cop exploded into theaters, Hill was reportedly inundated with requests for other film roles, but chose to focus on his police career instead (outside of appearances in the film’s two sequels, in 1987 and 1994). In 1989, he retired from the Detroit PD, instead joining the city’s council, and eventually serving as its president. In 2001, he ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor, culminating a 40-year career of service to the city.
Hill died Monday evening, in Detroit’s DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital. The cause of death was listed as pneumonia.